NouLAB presents at the RSD7 Conference in Turin, Italy

November 14, 2018 | by: Heather Boyd-Kinnie

The Pond-Deshpande Centre’s NouLAB presents at the RSD7 Conference in Turin, Italy!

The Relating Systems Thinking and Design Conference (RSD7) in Turin, Italy was held over four days, October 23rd to 26th 2018. This conference brought together a wide variety of academics, designers, practitioners and interested people. The one thing they seem to have in common is a desire to change the ways things are. Designers are inherently tinkerers, they are people who see things as they could be, not necessarily as they are, and they also see what is behind the scenes. Many of the topics at RSD7 were about the philosophies beyond the visual, beyond the obvious. Now you may be wondering what I’m talking about. In systems theory, there is the requirement to investigate what and how things are connected. Determining which elements, stakeholders, ideas are important and how to connect them was the subject of many of the discussions and presentations at the conference. Putting systems thinkers and designers together makes for some very interesting conversations.

Why did NouLAB participate in this conference?

NouLAB runs social innovation labs, which bring together people from many different sectors to begin to understand and tackle some of our most challenging problems in an “academy.” As an essential part of this process, NouLAB facilitators use a “systems thinking approach” to guide participants. This involves helping them map “the system” to best understand how different parts are connected, to identify the points where changes could have the most impact, and to decide where action is needed. This action will often involve prototyping (trying out) various ways to make potential improvement in the system.

Where a significant problem in our region has been identified that requires in-depth understanding and much longer-term exploration, and a team of different people representing various sectors comes forward to work on the challenge, a “standing lab” may be formed. This was the case with the standing lab on Immigration which was formed in the summer of 2017, and because of the work which is resulting from the lab, it became the focus of the case study which NouLAB was invited to present at the RSD7 conference.

NouLAB’s Economic Immigration Lab has been working on novel ways to do immigration better in the province of New Brunswick for the past year and half. There are currently 5 distinct prototypes being tried to improve the experience of immigration for employers and immigrants.

To share with the community of systems thinkers and designers at RSD7, Rosamund Mosse, Nick Scott and Lewis Muirhead presented NouLAB’s approach to addressing the socio-economic issues facing the province.

They presented in the Policy Design and Decision-Making Stream of the conference and the audience was made up of representatives from other social innovation labs in the United States, Europe and Canada. They shared the story of how NouLAB, as a program of the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, (developed in collaboration with the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network), forms a part of our strategic advantage as an organization – it is inside an academic institution and outside of government.  As a public and social innovation lab, NouLAB works with government to impact policy development, but since NouLAB is positioned the outside of government, acting in a consultant role, a more radical approach and procedures can be taken than would be

necessarily be possible within the government walls. They also presented how systems thinking, the theory of change and design are at the heart of the NouLAB process.

In the words of the public policy researcher Piret Tõnurist, “NouLAB holds ‘disruptive potential’ to make change.” NouLAB also uses participatory practices and design thinking

Nick Scott, Lewis Muirhead, Rose Moss

to push participants into new ways of thinking and doing. The projects in the Economic Immigration Lab are inherently multi-sectoral, bringing in the government, business, non-profit and academic sectors to provide input on how to move forward. The ability to hold these meetings and do user-centred design has allowed new ideas and action to come forth.

The audience for the presentation was very engaged and provided feedback. Because of the academic nature of the conference, there were many questions relating to best practices, and how the ideas can be applied. They were interested in how we do user-interviews, test prototypes, as well as how we get the commitment for doing the longer workshops that are required for proper engagement.  Following the presentation and throughout the remainder of the conference, there was considerable interest and ideas flowing around the topics that the NouLAB team presented.

Written by Lewis Muirhead, NouLAB Knowledge Manager

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